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Phobias

Find information on phobias, including symptoms, causes and how to access treatment and support. Get tips for helping yourself, plus guidance for friends and family.

Self-care tips for phobias

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There are some things you can try to address your phobia. They may help reduce the impact it has on your life. Some people find these ideas useful, but they may not be for everyone. Only try what you feel comfortable with.

Talk to someone you trust

You might find that talking to someone you trust about your phobia can help. Having someone listen to you and showing they care can help in itself.

If you find it hard to talk, try writing things down. You could try writing a letter to help you set out your thoughts more clearly.

It might be useful to show them our page on how to help someone experiencing phobias.

Learn to manage panic and anxiety

Learning to manage the panic and anxiety you feel from your phobia can be really difficult. But by doing this, you might feel more in control around your trigger situation or object.

  • Learn relaxation techniques. There are many different relaxation techniques available. They range from meditation, to breathing control and stretching. See our pages on relaxation for more information.
  • Try coping methods for panic attacks. During a panic attack, try focusing on your breathing or senses, and stamping on the spot. For more details about panic attacks and how to cope, see our page on panic attacks.

"When I begin to feel 'weird' in public now, I breathe in for four seconds (through my stomach, not my chest). I pause for four seconds. Then I exhale (pulling my stomach back in) for four seconds. This kind of breathing is hard to master, but it's the same kind of breathing we do when we are sleeping."

Look into support groups

  • Join a peer support group. In peer support, you'll share experiences with others facing similar challenges. It can feel comforting to know that you're not alone. Other people may also be able to suggest different coping methods you can try. The Mind Infoline or No More Panic might be able to tell you more about suitable local groups. See our pages on peer support for more information and available services.
  • Try online support groups. Online support can be particularly useful at times when you aren't able to go out. Or if you find it hard to talk to people on the phone or face-to-face. Online communities like Mind’s Side by Side, can offer support and are monitored for your safety. See our pages about online mental health for more on how to use these resources safely.

"I love helping others in a similar position. I have gained considerable amounts of knowledge, and am trying to share it."

Use self-help resources

Some people use self-help books or online programmes to help cope with phobias.

These are often based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They will help you develop your own programme to reduce anxiety and make it easier to deal with your phobia triggers.

  • Books and written resources. A healthcare professional might prescribe you a self-help book from the charity Reading Well. These resources are called Books on Prescription. You can also buy these online or borrow from your local library. You can find many other resources available to read. Try contacting organisations such as Anxiety UK or No More Panic for more information.
  • Online programmes and resources. You could also try online self-help programmes. You may have to pay for these, or you may be able to access free through your GP. For example, there are several app-based CBT courses recommended on the NHS apps library.

"Always remember that phobias are not life threatening and you are bigger than your phobias. A phobia is only as big as we make it and only as small as we make it, and it can be beaten."

Take a course for your specific phobia

Some organisations run courses in-person to help people overcome specific phobias.

For example, courses may be run by:

  • airline companies and airports, to help people overcome their fear of flying
  • zoos, to help people reduce their fear of certain animals or insects.

Take care when researching these online, as you might come across photos that trigger your phobia. It might be a good idea to ask a friend or family member to look them up for you.

These courses vary in price, availability and how they are run. Many courses are based on hypnosis or CBT principles such as exposure therapy. You can talk to your doctor about whether you think a course like this could benefit you.

This information was published in February 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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